Last September, cyber attackers were able to steal some £1.3 million from Barclays bank. Over the holiday season in the United States, hackers stole the credit card information of more than 40 million people who shopped at Target, the third-largest retailer in the country. As the number of consumers who make purchases online or in stores with their credit card continues to swell, the more disturbing trend of cyber hacking and data theft is also growing.
In order to find perpetrators and punish them properly, not only for justice but also to send a message to future hackers that those actions won’t be tolerated, UK police agencies are turning to counter-terrorism methods.
“Cybercrime and fraud are some of the biggest security threats that we face. The systems that we have set up with the City of London Police have helped to protect hundreds of millions of pounds of customers’ money, but we want to go further,” said chief executive of the British Banks Association Anthony Browne.
A partnership between the City of London Police and UK banks has prevented the theft of nearly £175 and has found nearly 20,000 suspect bank accounts since April of last year. Those accounts are believed to be used for hacking purposes.
“We have ways of identifying quite clearly which accounts are being used illegally and we work with the banking association to take them down quickly,” Steve Head, City of London Police commander said.
Browne added, “We want to create a virtual ring of steel around the City of London to make it even more difficult for cyber criminals to operate here.”
In the past, that kind of progress had been difficult because of banks’ reluctance to release information about cyber attacks. But the partnership between the banks and authorities seems to be netting positive results.
Despite improved efforts in both the UK and United States, there is certainly no guarantee that small businesses will not be hacked. In fact, according to Adam Levin, they all probably will be. He writes that, “they may not think they’ll be targets of hackers looking for big scores… but all of them probably will be. It’s just too easy and too lucrative for hackers to gather and utilize people’s personal information for anyone to be safe – including small enterprises with databases that seem at first blush to be of limited utility.”
Thankfully, though Levin paints a rather bleak picture suggesting that virtually every business will be the target of a cyber attack at some point, he does offer some helpful tips. “So what is a small business owner to do? Instead of throwing up your hands and assuming you can’t afford the technology that big companies use, make the 3 Ms your mantra: Minimize, Monitor and Manage,” he writes. “Make yourself a harder target and know what to do when you become one anyway.”
Keeping that in mind could help ensure long-term success, even in today’s competitive — and possibly dangerous — business marketplace.
That is important not just for individual business owners, but also the U.S. economy as a whole. Despite the fact that over half of the U.S. workforce is employed by a small business in one way or another, only about a quarter of them stay operational for 15 years or more.
Though cyber hacking and crime is hardly the only factor that contributes to that trend, it could become more influential in the future, especially for small business owners who fail to invest in the proper safety procedures.